Read: Matthew 9:18-31
Raising the dead was an extraordinary miracle to say the least. Of all the miracles that Jesus does in the context of his ministry, this one would have certainly vindicated his authority over all matters, and in particularly life. But in the midst of this resurrection, a woman made a desperate attempt to get healing that she so dearly wanted. She reasons that touching the edge of Jesus’ garment is all she needs to do. This is probably talking about the edge of his prayer shawl that was worn by Jewish men (Numbers 15:38-41). This particular woman had had discharge of blood for 12 years, so according to the Law (Leviticus 15:25-33) she would have been unclean for 12 years, and unable to participate in many of the community activities that required ceremonial cleanliness. Even touching them would have made someone else unclean. Interestingly, Jesus is touched by the woman and he himself touches a dead corpse.
These two miracles undoubtedly reminiscent of the miracles performed by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:32-36), both of whom were involved with resurrections of dead children. In Elisha’s case, the son of the Shunammite and Elijah’s the son of the widow with whom he resided. In the case of Elijah, the woman used the resurrection as affirmation of Elijah’s status when she acknowledges that the words that came from his mouth were “truth”. When Jesus came to the house, the mourners though laughed at him when he said the girl was “asleep.” Jesus’ expression here is interesting. By saying she was merely asleep, he was alluding to what he was about to do. She was temporarily dead, not permanently so.
Resurrection and the healing point to a greater reality concerning the power of Jesus. The promise of eternal life is available to all who will believe. 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 uses similar language to describe the temporary nature of death for those who do believe. Paul says that not all will “sleep” as some will be alive when Christ returns, however for those that don’t they will experience resurrection. Regardless though, death is powerless such that it has lost its sting and is swallowed in victory by Jesus who makes it possible. Believers will put on the imperishable and immortal. In the New Heaven and New Earth, such things will be done away with – no more crying, pain, or death (Revelation 21:4). The power of God is manifested here, and in this there is great hope!
Lord, you have power over death! Even life itself is under your dominion!
Read: Luke 5:12-16
Jesus did some things in his ministry that raised eyebrows, and healing the man with leprosy was one of them. Leprosy is a contagious skin disease. During the time of Jesus, there was no cure. Lepers were isolated from the community and considered ceremonially unclean. Lepers had to dress in rags and wear there hair down, and cry out “unclean, unclean” as they made their way about (Leviticus 13:45-46). While there was no law pertaining to touching a leper, doing so was certainly taboo and reviled. Nevertheless, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the leper and heals him.
The leper himself exhibited great faith and humility when he came to Jesus. When he came to Jesus, he fell on his face, begging Jesus for healing and believing that Jesus was able. He doesn’t specifically ask for healing per se, rather to be “made clean” which is an interesting request. He wanted not to just be free of the disease, but free of the stigma associated with it – ceremonial uncleanliness. After Jesus heals him, Jesus tells him to present himself to the priest which was part of the requirement of the law to be pronounced clean after a leper was healed from the disease (Leviticus 14).
Jesus’ compassion is evidenced throughout the gospels by his miracles of healing, but Jesus didn’t want his message to be overshadowed by his miracles. This is why he charged the man not to say anything about the healing. In spite of this though, the word about Jesus’ ability to heal spread throughout the region but not where it overshadowed the message because people came both to hear him preach and to be healed, but Jesus says his mission was to preach (Luke 4:43). Jesus though would always take the time to withdraw and pray, because he desired communion with his father.
The human race is inflicted with all sorts of infirmities and diseases. Some are curable, but many are not. While God can and does still miraculously heal people today, inevitably some other infirmity will creep up and ultimately claim one’s life. The ultimate infirmity that people have to deal with though is their sin. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, but eternal life comes Jesus. For those that believe in Jesus, they will one day receive an immortal, imperishable body that is free from disease (1 Corinthians 51-54, Revelation 21:4). In today’s culture though, there are charlatans who claim to be “faith healers” that put on a spectacle to “demonstrate power”. God’s word doesn’t need demonstration, it needs proclamation. Jesus in his day attempted to minimize his miracles and maximize his message to that the emphasis would be on one’s eternal healing, not their temporal healing. This is how world will be reconciled to God.
Lord, you healed me!
Help me to proclaim the gospel so others can be healed!
Read: Joshua 9:1-15
Gibeon had made peace with Israel by deceiving them, but Joshua nevertheless upheld their mutual defense pact even though they Israel had been deceived. Shortly thereafter, the other Amorite kings heard that Gibeon had made peace with Israel and formed an alliance to destroy Gibeon. Israel came to Gibeon’s aid, and the Lord fought for Israel and Gibeon by giving them an extended day, sending hail upon the Amorites, and confusing the Amorite armies when Israel attacked. The battle was a complete route by God on behalf of the Israelites.
The battle with the Amorite kings is but another example of how God doing the fighting on behalf of Israel. The day was full of miracles such that Joshua notes that there was never a day like it before and hadn’t been one since. The confused army and the hailstones are easily fathomed, but the unfathomable was the sun stopping in the sky and Joshua makes special note of this miracle. There have been explanations offered up throughout the ages to explain this phenomenon, but the only one that really makes sense from the text is that God deed indeed stop the sun in the sky. The scope of this miracle however is not so hard to grasp if one considers that God created the universe and all that it contains by merely speaking it into existence!
When God told Joshua, “do not fear,” God was telling him that he was going to be with him in the battle and the people Joshua was going against were already given to Joshua. Joshua was being reminded of the promises God had given to them before they entered the land in Deuteronomy 20:1-4. Here, God tells Israel to not be afraid because he was going to be fighting on their behalf. God fought for Israel, and is still fighting for his people today. When Jesus left the earth, he promised that he would be with them even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus explains in John 14:18-23 that he would be with them by means of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 8:31-39 makes some strong remarks concerning the nature of God. He says, “If God is for us, who is against us?”, that Christians are “overwhelmingly conquerors,” and that nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ. The ultimate victory of Jesus is when he conquered death which Jesus did on behalf of those who believe (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Christians have no reason to fear anything in life or in death for that matter because God is fighting on behalf of those who believe. God is the most awesome, powerful force in the entire universe. This unstoppable, unmovable force is still telling his people, “do not fear” because he will win the day!
God, you do the fighting for me! Help me not to fear!
Read: Joshua 7
Achan went down in history has the man that disobeyed the ban that God had given Israel concerning the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:17-21). He kept for himself some of the things that he was not supposed to keep, and this ended up costing the life of him, his family, and all he owned. Among the things were gold, silver, and the “mantle of Shinar” – perhaps an elaborate robe of Babylonian origin. The significance of the robe is not explained, but it was perhaps a mantle used by priests during the occult worship of the Canaanite gods. Achan’s misdeeds caused the death of some of the men who went up to take Ai as well. When the spies went out from the Israelite camp, they came back confident that it would only take part of the men to take Ai. They apparently assumed that God was working in their favor when they took the city of Jericho, but he was not with them when they sent men to Ai. Instead of a complete route like they had seen at Jericho, the men were sent high-tailing it back to the Israelite camp. That, and God did not hold just one person accountable for the sins of Achan, rather the whole nation. The gravity of the ban was made apparent by how God dealt with Jericho, but Achan for some reason did not take it seriously and fell to the temptation God had warned them against in light of the ban. In response to this, Israel destroyed Achan in the Valley of Achor which was named after Achan and Achan’s name came to synonymous with the word “trouble” in the Hebrew language.
It is difficult for modern readers of Joshua to fully understand why God would “burn” against an entire nation because of one man’s sins. Achan’s sin seems rather private, but the effects of sin are hardly ever contained to an individual. Sin has a ripple effect that touches all areas of a person’s life and community. God wanted Israel to understand this, and even more so consider what would happen if even a little sin were allowed to germinate and take root among the people of Israel. James 1:13-15 describes sin in these terms – temptation gives rise to lust, lust gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. Romans 5:12 describes how sin entered the world through one man and spread to every other man. Sin is like a disease: a small infection usually is harmless, but unless the infection is treated immediately, it can grow and become untreatable or even fatal. Jesus talks about maiming one’s self when something causes one to stumble in Matthew 18:7-8 and Matthew 5:29-30. The point here is that a small part can drag down the whole of an individual or even a corporate body.
Sin is as serious an issue today as it was for the Israelites. Christians can learn many things from the Israelites concerning sin and its implications. God was doing mighty works among them – so much so it seems they were getting pretentious about how God was going to act. But the sins of a one man brought God’s action to a screeching halt and instead Israel was humiliated and Joshua was grieved by this. God told Joshua to act decisively and deliberately concerning sin and he purged sin from Israel. Rather than assume that God will work mightily, Christians ought to be humble and seek God’s face at every turn. And in this humility, Christians should also remember to constantly confess sin and purge sin from their own lives to that it does not have a chance to germinate and spread like a ravenous disease. God is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse one from unrighteousness!
Lord, I am a sinner! Please forgive me and cleanse me from unrighteousness!
Read: Ecclesiastes 12:1-7: “Remember Your Creator”
The Preacher in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes before his conclusion makes one clear, resounding remark: remember one’s creator in the days of one’s youth. The Preacher mentions two “befores” – before the lights go out and before a number of things are broken. The light the Preacher describes in the first “before” is blocked out by darkness and gloom and he paints a picture of funeral scene with mourners. Traditional commentators have associated this gloomy picture with the infirmities that come with age and a period of life one outlives his or her usefulness. The second “before” talks about a number of things that are “broken” that have been traditionally been associated with critical parts of the body: the “silver cord” is the spinal cord, the “golden bowl” is the brain, the “pitcher” is one of many vital organs, and the “wheel” is the heart. When any one of these things breaks, a person inevitably will die.
Studies have shown that most people (in upwards of 90%) choose what religion he or she will follow for most of his or her life by the age of 21. Perhaps the reason the Preacher encourages youth to remember their creator in the days of their youth is because of the implications following God has on one’s life. The Preacher has talked a great deal in the book about how worldly pursuits are vain ambition and ultimately leave one feeling empty. But the one thing that God has set the heart of man on is the eternal, and that which is eternal is the only thing that can satisfy and eternal longing. Rather than waste one’s life pursuing vain ambition, the Preacher is encouraging the young to start pursuing the eternal at a young age so they will not be, as the Preacher, a grumpy old man who did lots of things but was never satisfied. He knows that people generally make up their mind about what course they will pursue in life at a young age, and he is trying to set them on the right path before it is too late.
For those that are young, they do well to head the Preachers words and pursue God at a young age. For those that are old, it is never too late to change one’s ways before one dies, and turn to Jesus. For those that have chosen wisely at any age, they can be encouragers and equippers of the young as the Preacher is trying to do for the young here in Ecclesiastes. The responsibility of teaching Godly principles is new with each generation of Christians to pass the truth of God to the next generation (2 Timothy 2:2, Matthew 28:19-20). All in all, everyone should remember their creator throughout their entire life. In this, one will find satisfaction and hope and will pass on knowing that he or she has the prospect of resurrection because of Jesus!
Lord, help me to remember you all of my days!
Read: Ecclesiastes 9:7-10
This isn’t the first time that the Preacher has encouraged men to enjoy the fruits of his labor. The Preacher had earlier said that enjoying the fruits of one’s labor was a blessing from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 8:15). He also thinks that overwork and laziness are some things that should be avoided too (Ecclesiastes 4:4-6). The preacher gives a longer description saying that one should be merry, let one’s garments be white, and enjoy life with the loved ones. These things are “approved” by God. The Preacher also encourages his readers to find something and do it – that is be industrious too.
The encouragement here though he given in the context of the certainty of death. The certainty of death is a pervaded the thoughts of the Preacher and is apparent especially in chapter 9. The Preacher calls the life that one lives “vain” – that is a life void of meaning and purpose. The Preacher seems pretty certain that the readers and he alike are bound for Sheol, the abode the dead in Jewish though. When one died, whether righteous or unrighteous, he or she went to Sheol and remained there. The New Testament follows the tradition of the Septuagint, the Greek New Testament where translating the word “Sheol” into “hades”. The New Testament uses another word to describe the place of punishment called “Gehenna”. Ghenna is mentioned in the context of judgment particularly in the synoptic gospels (Matthew 5:22-29, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15,33, Mark 9:43-47 Luke 12:5, James 3:6). What the Preacher does not seem to take into account is that there will one day be a judgment and all will be resurrected from “hades”. When one is judged, he or she is either condemned or is lives forever with God. The hope of the Christian gospel is made real by the fact that Jesus himself rose from the dead, showing that resurrection is indeed possible.
A life for a Christian does not have to be meaningless and without purpose. Acts 17:22-31 talks about how a person’s existence is tied up in God. Paul actually quotes a a philosopher named Epimenides saying, “for in Him we live and move and exist”. The totality of one’s being is contingent upon God, and the Preacher realized that man’s hearts are set on this. When Jesus came to earth, his mission was not to condemn the world, but to save it (John 3:17). In other words, he was about the business of making sure people do not have to endure “Ghenna” – that is judgment – when they are judged. Jesus taught his disciples what they needed to know and then gave them the new work of telling the world about the pending resurrection and judgment at the end of days and how Jesus provided a way to escape this by dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead so the one’s facing judgment would not have to. A Christian who makes this sort of work his or her work does something that has eternal implications. Such a life is not “vain”, rather full of meaning because of the one who they serve, namely Jesus!
Lord, your work is to seek and save that which is lost! Help me to do the same!
Read: Ecclesiastes 9:1-6
The Preacher seems to be all doom and gloom in chapter 9 of Ecclesiastes. He again he reflects on the common destiny of all people – the righteous and the wicked, the ones who take oaths and those that do not – there is no difference so the Preacher thinks. The Preacher tops off his lament with saying that the human hearts are full of evil and madness. In a poetic form, the Preacher waxes about how people are forgotten after they are dead. Not only do they die, the memories of the ones who have died die as well. And yet in spite of all this, the Preacher says there is still hope in the ones who live. He seems to think that even in spite of the certainty of death and the obvious evil that fills people hearts people still have a hope – there is a certain yearning to for the eternal in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:1-15).
God set men’s heart on this, and perhaps on purpose. In Acts 17:22-31, Paul gives a discourse concerning how God made the world and its contents and has made the world such that men would seek after God. Paul then talks about the coming judgment and how God has commanded everyone to repent and how Jesus’s resurrection is the proof of this. While the Preacher seems only certain about death, Paul is saying that there is a coming judgment for all – even those who have died. The hope that that yearns for the eternal is made possible by resurrection.
The Christian gospel strikes a chord with men because it is with the Christian gospel that one finds what he or she is seeking and he fulfills the yearnings of his or her heart with the gospel. 1 Peter 1:3-5 couldn’t say it better:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (ESV)
There is new birth to a “living hope” through the resurrection of Jesus. This stands in stark contrast to the doom and gloom of the Preacher talking about the evil that exists in all men and the certainty of death. This is free from evil the taint of sin and is eternal. This is what the heart is seeking and yearns for and can only be found one place, and that is through faith in Jesus. Christians should, as 1 Peter 1:4 says, rejoice in this hope. The hope here is not pie-in-the-sky, rather it is as real and was proved to be so by the resurrection of Jesus!
Lord, your resurrection gives me a living hope! Help me to celebrate that!
Read: Ecclesiastes 5:8-18
The Preacher in Ecclesiastes often mentions wealth in his book and the relationship of wealth to life. His general thinking is that wealth for wealth’s sake is meaningless for a number of reasons.
- The one who pursues wealth for wealth’s sake is never satisfied with what he has.
- As one’s wealth amasses, so do those who consume it. Wealthy people are often surrounded by people who want a piece of the wealth for themselves. They are only interested in the owner because he or she is wealthy, no more. The preacher says that such people have no benefit to the owner because all they do is stare at the wealth.
- Wealth can be lost in misfortune or stolen.
- People are born into the world naked, and they cannot take wealth with them when they die.
On the other hand, the Preacher thinks that people find much satisfaction in enjoying the fruits of their labor. Wealth for wealth’s sake has little satisfaction in such pursuits but the one who stops to enjoy what he or she has worked hard for finds satisfaction in this sort of work. The Preacher is saying that having money is evil; rather one should take the time to both work hard and then reap the benefits of his or her work. He sees this as a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 3:13, Ecclesiastes 5:18, Ecclesiastes 8:15, Ecclesiastes 9:7-9). The Bible does not condone having money but that it should be used for good (1 Timothy 6:11-21, Proverbs 3:9-10) rather than evil (James 5:1-6), but the pursuit of money for the sake of being wealthy is shunned (Proverbs 23:4-45, Matthew 6:19-20). The Bible teaches too that contentment is good (1 Timothy 6:6-8, Philippians 4:11) and that it is better to be righteous than wealthy (Proverbs 15:16-17, Proverbs 16:8).
Christians would do well to listen to the wisdom of the Preacher and consider the end goal of one’s pursuits. The end goal of every pursuit should be in accordance with the purposes of God. Psalms 67 teaches that God blesses so the blessed can bless others. In doing so, the ends of the earth will fear God. Work therefore should be to the glory of God. Paul encourages that whatever one does, one should do it as unto God rather than man (Colossians 3:23-24). Even so, as the Preacher says, people will only be interested in a person for his or her wealth rather than being genuinely interested in the person. The best thing to do is fear God, then everything else will follow suit. It is only in this that one can find real meaning!
Lord, let me honor you with all I have!
Read: Ecclesiastes 4:1-3
The “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes adds to his remarks in Chapter 3 in Chapter 4. He had remarked that he saw no meaning in the fact that in justice and judgment there was evil, and that there was no difference between the righteous and unrighteous in death. The preacher continues on this theme, thinking that power is in the hands of oppressors and that there is no advocate for the oppressed. He reckons it is better to be dead than alive, and even better yet is the one who had never been born – that is the one who has never seen the evil in the world, even where there should be justice and judgment. The words are a harsh sentiment, but the Preacher is not necessarily speaking of things in light of the fully revealed Christ. The Preacher when he made these remarks apparently had not concluded the fact that it was best for man to fear the Lord.
The relationship between life and death is more realized in the New Testament in light of resurrection. The hope offered by resurrection gave Paul a completely different attitude towards life and death. He says first that to live is Christ and to dies is gain (Philippians 1:21). In saying this, Paul says that there is joy in serving the Lord even though he faces suffering, and to die is gain because one gets to do the second thing: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being sure of what is hoped for and confident of things not seen – that is being certain of some future promised that has not yet been received. Knowing that Jesus died and rose from the dead conquers death is the basis of the hope for the Christian and that even though one day, he or she may still yet live.
Christians therefore need not be pessimistic in life or in death as the Preacher was. Saying that it is better to be dead than alive or better to have never been born because of evil is not the mark of a Christian, rather saying it is best to be a child of God because of the hope offered by God to all those that believe. The job of the Christian is not to mope over the apparent injustice in life, rather the job of the Christian to proclaim the life that is offered in Jesus and how sin is judgment are reconciled in the Cross. The heart of the Christian can know and believe in the hope, knowing that to live is Christ having his joy and to die is to be with the Lord.
Lord, you are what gives meaning to life!
Read: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22: Life After Death
The “Preacher” in Ecclesiastes had just spoken concerning the cyclical nature of life. He juxtaposes the cycles of life against the enduring and unending nature of God, saying that this is in place for the purpose for man to fear God. But to the Preacher, the there is another apparent discrepancy that he cannot find any resolution to, and that is the apparent indifference between the outcomes of the righteous and the wicked and also the man and beast. The Preacher looked at justice and judgment and saw wickedness there, and states that surely God will bring all to judgment to the righteous and the wicked in due time. The preacher does seem to feel confident in the judgment of God, but there is no indication that he is talking about judgment in eschatological terms. He seems ambivalent concerning the nature of the soul after death or where it goes. He just knows that animals and man alike came from the dust and to the dust they return when they die. He concludes the matter, thinking that the best thing to do is to enjoy one’s work, because this is one’s lot.
The nature of life after death was much debated among the Jews up to the time of death. The Sadducees did not believe in a resurrection but the Pharisees did. The Preacher and the Jewish scholars were like the Preacher in that they were not sure about life after death. Jesus came to the earth and taught concerning resurrection. He said that he was the resurrection and the life. He says that the one who believes in him, though he may die, will live (John 11:25). Jesus proved that resurrection was possible when he raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11. Paul thinks the implication of uncertainty concerning resurrection would lead him to believe the same thing the Preacher did (1 Corinthians 15:32). But in any case, what Paul is certain of is that the resurrection is something to be preferred because it will lead to one putting off the perishable and putting on the imperishable (1 Corinthians 35-56). Revelation 21 shows the final judgment of all things concerning deeds where one is judged. The Preacher does not seems to indicated that he believes in such a judgment, but in any case, a final judgment is made clear in scriptures: all will be raised, but some will be raised to eternal life and some to judgment.
Christians need to be wary of the fact that there is an ultimate judgment for all people. This judgment is no joke – it is real and coming and must be taken seriously. Jesus’ resurrection is the source of hope for Christians, but it is also the proof that resurrection is possible, and Jesus wasn’t joking when he talks about the future judgment. The work of man is to be enjoyed in life, but at the same time, Christ’s mission was to propagate the gospel to all creation, and this mission has been imparted to Christians (Matthew 28:19-20). Christians should make the mission of Christ a priority in they live and think. Facing judgment without Jesus as one’s advocate is a scary thought in any respect, and Jesus’ sacrifice is good news considering the reality of judgment!
Lord, Judgment is real! Help me to tell everyone I can about it!